This past week our fearful French bowling ball of a governor spoke at the Maine Office of Tourism Governor’s Conference. The event was held in Newry, at Sunday River and had way more than 350 people from Maine’s preeminent businesses attending. Glasses were polished, silverware was rolled, and glasses were filled. Everybody in the hotel was ready. Everybody except for the governor, who arrived twenty minutes late in the middle of lunch. To make up for his tardiness the governor reminded the dignified members of the audience that the Tourist industry is of vital importance to the Maine economy…three times in the same speech. No one would argue that fact but some may think to avoid over mentioning it to a group of people whose lives and jobs depend on it already. The event somehow managed to be both insightful and ridiculous.
The Tourist industry in Maine provided 98,932 jobs (15% of the workforce) and more than $5.6 Billion in direct expenditures last year according to their annual report. People across the world come to Vacationland and are greeted with friendly smiles and great service (when it is deserved). We have so many service workers to thank for keeping that money coming to the state year after year. However, it may not be enough to improve Maine’s economy. It has already been pointed out that the state’s decrease in unemployment is actually a forewarning of a decrease in the labor force. And if that isn’t enough jobs are still being lost. In manufacturing and the paper industry people are being let go in the thousands.
While some may have expected LePage to give praise to the tourist industry for being there for Maine in a time of economic hardship or thank them for dealing with the mob of tourists that crash on our beaches and lakes every summer, this is not what happened.
LePage used his time at the mike to attack Bernie Sanders supporters for almost no reason. It is a stretch, even with the guy currently running for president. What does the Presidential race have to do with our successful pioneers in the tourist industry? Apparently, the man is just so enraged with lefty politics that every time someone puts a microphone in front of him he has to attack them. That is a serious dose of fear causing him to froth at the mouth. He continued on to explain why better and more affordable social programs will put us all so deep in taxes the American dream will be lost. Forever. Again. He then went on to another classic conservative trope; it shouldn’t be a crime to be successful. Well, yes, that would be quite ridiculous. What should be a crime though is when the unregulated excess of successfulness starts to boil over with no end in sight like some sort of sick invisible Deep Water Horizon and starts poisoning our shared water, air, and food.
Yet, if we try to fix these things and still allow people to be successful and make money the Governor calls out EVIL REDISTRIBUTION. Which is just such a sad lack of understanding for the basic English term. It is not a big red and scary government roaming around with hammer and sickle taking your belongings and giving them to someone less deserving. Redistribution is a question that every generation, every country, and every person must figure out. How do we split up the pie? How do we distribute wealth? Rick Grimes doesn’t have time to think about that but we do. Capitalism is itself a form of redistribution and the Republicans love certain subsidies, if that’s not redistribution of wealth I don’t know what is. That is an active attempt to alter the magnificent will of the free hand of the market. So when anyone says that socialism is bad or class warfare is wrong, remember there is more to it than that, and whoever said that has no idea what they are talking about. These are punchlines for a public that has a 30 second attention span. Unfortunately, people will say whatever they can to get what they want no matter how close to reality it is. Consequently, it lands on us to communicate and redistribute fairly together.
Still not sure about this crazy redistribution word? Let’s use an example. During his speech LePage mentioned his rags to riches story of how he used to eat cat food because it was cheaper than tuna. Now, if you pay your taxes those taxes will pay for maintaining the government and the governor’s office and salary. So your tax dollars are being redistributed so that Paul doesn’t have to eat cat food any more. Your welcome, Paul.
After his speech he stood awkwardly by and shook the hands of all the award winners. Among them were Greg Dugal for Tourism Excellence, Captain John Nicolai for Marketing and Promotion, The Nonantum Resort for Leadership and Growth, Eastport Pirate Festival for Innovation and Creativity, and the Castine Historical Society for Originality. Great people and great places to visit not just for outta statahs but for Mainers too. Sadly, instead of staying for the lunch, LePage then promptly left out the back door as soon as he wasn’t needed. No reason to schmooze there I guess.
In the end perhaps he attacked Bernie because of the recent win in Maine and he figured since most of the state didn’t even vote for him why not just piss everyone off. It wouldn’t be the first time he has tried to cause trouble for no reason. He has consistently tried to create a divide between rural North and barely urban South, suggesting that economic success is somehow directed more towards the south by…who exactly? Democrats, I guess? The whole thing is ridiculous. I grew up and lived in both parts of our vast state and houses are surely nicer on the Golden Coast but let’s face it once you are on the other side of the turnpike surrounded by the forest and hidden drives it looks the same as everywhere else in Maine. What I mean to say is that there are rural economic hardships in the South just as much as there are in the North. LePage and the North do not have a monopoly on economic suffering. At best its fear mongering but to me it is just a limp unimaginative lie.
I really wish I hadn’t had to hear all those things come out of his mouth. But that is the way the world is. I have to respect the Democratic process that put him in the chair and made him my governor. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t switch to ranked choice voting in the future. Democracy is adaptable to the challenges at hand. Fun fact: Republican nominees for governor in Maine have failed to win a majority of the vote in 12 consecutive cycles over the last 50+ years – the longest Republican streak in the nation. Dirigo, baby! And no governor has been popularly elected with less than 40 percent of the vote in two consecutive cycles in U.S. history until LePage showed up.
Now I could keep going on reasons why I don’t agree with the road block GOP establishment but I want to talk about Tourism and how it is going to help Maine. While the tourism industry may be doing well and is a crucial part of any economy it should not be a main focus. It cannot be the industry we entrust our quality of life, health, and education to. I mean I know the place is called Vacationland but I don’t want to imagine what the thought of 50% of our work force cleaning dishes and tables. The good part is we don’t have to rely solely on this industry but we do need this industry to thrive and help with the transition to a healthier economy that can be sustainable. Tourism may be our white knight, or at least one of them.
What we need is to get people to come and help with our worker shortage in Maine and find productive work. To do that we need to recognize the importance of productive work, creative leisure and educational betterment. This was pointed out decades ago by political scientist Abraham Kaplan.
Thanks to our awesome businesses in Maine we already have the creative leisure part down. The Maine Office of Tourism has shown this and helped to improve on it. However, our productive work is deteriorating, people are losing jobs and are leaving the state. One way to attract people, especially young able bodied workers, is to provide quality affordable education, which is convenient because educational betterment is the next prerequisite for the trifecta of an equal society. We lose these three things if we give into LePage’s fear and we have to remind ourselves of that every day while working toward achieving them.